Tag Archives: shoes

“Buy the shoes”

It’s August, which used to be the month of birthdays in my family when I was a girl. Mine, my father’s, and my mother’s–all within five days of each other. (My sister, the rebel, has a birthday in February.)

Sadly, my parents are gone, leaving only me to celebrate during the dog days of summer. However, I do think of my parents a lot during this time of year, especially my mother. And when I think of my mother, I hear her whispering in my ear: “Buy the shoes.”

You see, when I was a teenager and then a young adult, I went through what I guess you could call an awkward fashion phase that lasted, oh, maybe 20 years? For a while, when I was younger, I favored chiffony things, but since you can’t wear those every day, I ended up “borrowing” a lot of clothes from my more practical and stylish sister. She loved that. Oh, yeah.

Then I moved on to my don’t-look-at-me phase, which dovetailed with the time I started working in a college PR office. During this stage, I favored neutrals and blend-in-with-the-wall shades, all designed to make me appear “professional.” I guess at that time I thought professional meant boring.

There was one constant through these various style shifts, however–shoes. Or rather, my complete blindness to good-looking footwear. I just didn’t pay that much attention to it. It was more fun to spend my meager paycheck on blouses, skirts, dresses, jeans, a haircut. Besides, since I wasn’t staring at my feet most of the time, why would other people notice them? This led me to wear shoes until they practically fell off my feet. Scuffed, run-down, battered-looking shoes. Shoes that appeared as if they’d made a trip across the country and back…walking alongside a Conestoga wagon.


My mom, with me and my sister

My poor mom, she probably struggled to bite her tongue about my fashion choices (after all, we all know what mother-daughter discussions on clothes are like–raging battles with no chance of diplomatic resolution). But she found a way around my fashion sense, including my shoe blindness. She zeroed in on my taste and bought me items accordingly–a lovely cream-colored herring-bone skirt, for example, that suited my beige-is-the-new-black era, and a sleek pair of ecru pumps which were about the swankiest pair of shoes I’d ever owned up until that point. She chose wisely. The shoes fit, and I ended up wearing them a lot since they blended so well into my blend-in wardrobe.

Owning that sweet pair of shoes triggered an epiphany. First, they made me realize that I liked wearing nice shoes. They made me feel more confident, more professional, more “together.” They made me realize that small details can make a difference. They made me feel…I was worth it, to borrow an advertising slogan. I was worth good shoes. I deserved good shoes.

I used to love going shopping with my mom, and even today when I’m in a department store, the smell of new clothes brings back memories of going through the racks with her, a silent bond between us. And while I don’t collect shoes the way some women do, I have a decent assortment of comfy and good-looking footwear for virtually every occasion–from lightweight walking shoes to silvery slingbacks I wore at my middle son’s wedding.

Every time I go shopping, if I’m hesitating over a purchase of something I really like, I hear my mother’s voice: Buy the shoes. But that mantra really means something much more than just pursuing a materialistic comfort. Now I know its true message:

Be good to yourself. Value yourself, and others will value you, too. Don’t scrimp on this wonderful gift of life I helped give you. Buy the shoes.


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TGIW: Random advice

by Libby Sternberg

Nothing deep or even narrative today. Just some random tips and advice I’ve picked up along life’s journey. Some might be obvious, but they weren’t to me when I discovered them:

tablecloth rosetteShortening too-long tablecloths: I have a couple tablecloths that are a tad large. My tables shrank. Or maybe I kind of bought the wrong size. They’re okay when we have the leaf in the dining room table (just barely), but not so much when the table is its smaller size. I saw a caterer do this trick, though, and have tried it myself: gather a bunch of the tablecloth where it’s too long. Slip a rubber band around the “bunch” to create a rosette effect. See picture.  This is great if you’re worried about guests tripping over the ends of a too-long tablecloth during a buffet serving.

Grab a stool from the bar: Shopping at JC Penney with a friend and don’t have anywhere to sit while they’re in the fitting room? Grab a stool from one of their silly “jeans bars” and park yourself on it. You’ll probably be doing them a service. As readers know, I was no fan of the recently fired Penney CEO Ron Johnson. One of his “innovations” was to create these “jeans bars” within the stores with tables full of jeans and stools pulled up to them. (For what? The mind boggles.) Anyway, if we can get an army of folks moving these stools to places in the stores where people really do want to sit…it’s a corporal work of mercy, I tell ya!

Scrambled eggs: Listen to Ina–Garten, that is. Slow and low. She advises not cooking them too quickly, and I have to say this does result in a softer scramble. I also read somewhere that adding a little seltzer water to the mix can make them fluffier, but I haven’t tried that.

Put nutmeg in your pancakes: I’ve been doing this for years, ever since I figured out why a particular eatery’s pancakes tasted so yummy. Just add a sprinkle or two to your batter.

Dress your onions first: I like onions in salad, but I don’t like that raw onion taste that lingers. So, I slice onions very thinly, place them in the salad bowl and dress with vinaigrette first. They hang out while I make the rest of the dinner, then I throw the greens and other veggies in and toss right before serving.

Take your shoes off: You have a gorgeous pair of shoes, but they get a tad uncomfortable after a while. You wear them to a wedding or other gathering. The floor might be dirty but it’s not strewn with broken glass, so…just take your shoes off and dance. At a recent wedding, I was delighted to see many guests dancing barefoot (or in their stocking feet). I walked around after my beautiful, but rarely worn, silver shoes started to make my feetsies ache. Amazingly, no one commented on this.

Sparkle: I’m a big proponent of sparkly jewelry, sparkly apparel and sparkly…personalities. When I was younger, I favored chiffony clothes and sparkly jewelry, but then the sixties came along and ruined everything with their bell-bottom jeans uniform. Nowadays, however, I wear sparkly jewelry even with jeans. I have learned not to save nice things for so-called special occasions. Every day is special.

Libby Sternberg is a novelist. Buy her books so she can buy more shoes and sparkly things.

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